You live in the south-eastern corner of a large continent in the north of Mystara, among the lands known to the locals as “The Known World.”
This corner of the continent is dominated by the Empire of Thyatis, which is a militant empire based in the south east corner of The Known World, and spreads south and over the sea to the Isle of Dawn. They also try to lay claim to (or strongly influence) large stretches of the continent, although the other individual nations resist to a greater or lesser extent. It helps that their attention is drawn to their rival empire on the Isle of Dawn, Alphatia, which prevents their legions from overrunning the rest of the continent.
As well as Thyatis, there are various other countries in The Known World:
- Karameikos was conquered by Thyatis a hundred years ago, and thirty years ago Stefan Karameikos took charge, styling himself “Grand Duke”. Outside of the capital Specularum life is pretty basic and wild. The real frontiers are in the mountains in the north and east, but the whole country is effectively frontier land.
- Ylaruam is almost completely desert, surrounded by mountains on the south, west and north and the sea to the east. The desert areas are peopled by fierce warrior nomads, who scorn the “soft town dwellers” (who regard the “uncivilised” nomads with equal scorn). The capital, Ylaruam, is a surprisingly green jewel in the middle of the desert.
- Across the mountains to the north of Ylaruam are Soderfjord, Vestland and (in a group of islands off the coast) Ostland, collectively known as the Northern Reaches. These are wild lands where warrior Jarls rule over a rough and combative folk particularly feared for their sea raiders.
- Rockhome is the land of the dwarves, a mountainous land to the east of Ylaruam and to the north east of Karameikos. Stolid, dependable but unwelcoming to non-dwarves. They live mostly underground, in the but there are a few above-ground towns (mostly to provide the farming which feeds the country) located on the edge of one or other of the two large lakes in the centre of the country.
- To get from Karameikos to Rockhome, you have to take the trail north through the south-east corner of Darokin, land of merchants and diplomats. They say if you shake hands with a Darokin trader you need to count your fingers afterwards, and they are known for striking deals which look very good…but somehow work out even better for the trader. Darokin extends for a long way to the west, the whole length of the northern border of Karameikos and then beyond, with Lake Amsorak leading to the western border of the Known World.
- Completely surround by Darokin, in the east just north of Karameikos (and rather too close to Rockhome for comfort) is Alfheim, land of the elves. Little is known about the elves there, because they keep themselves to themselves, but it is said there are strange and deadly beasts roaming the trees, and the elves like hunting (so it can be unfortunately easy to meet an “accident” if you venture into the land without an elven guide). There are also rumours of a race of elves who live deep under the earth.
- Below Darokin, to the west of Karameikos (past the notorious Blight Swamp) is the pleasant land of The Five Shires, a land of farms and forests which the halflings claim as their own. This land runs west until it reaches the Malpheggi Swamp, where the Streel river comes out into the sea after its long journey from the infamous Broken Lands north of Darokin where all the beastly humanoids live in a continual battle for supremacy.
- Across the Streel river delta from The Five Shires and the south-west end of Darokin is the jungle-surrounded high plateau of the Atruaghin clans, a primitive folk who live off the land.
- Heading north-west from Darokin instead takes you through the Broken Lands to Glantri, land of magic users ruled by magic users for magic users. This definitely doesn’t include religious magic…
- Finally, east of Glantri, west of Vestland and north of Darokin and Rockhome are the vast plains of the Ethengar Khanate.
Wherever you come from, there are rumours of strange things happening in the borderlands nearby, strange creatures appearing, strange weather conditions, places where no-one returns from, but these stories are always second- or third-hand.
You have the following options for home base.
This is a town which has grown up around an ancient (but still well-kept) castle on a cliff above the Highreach River far to the east of Karameikos where the northern trade route breaks away from the river and heads to the mountain pass to Thyatis. As well as the keep, there is a garrison stationed nearby. This is wild frontier land.
This is a town to the south of Ylaruam near the edge of the desert where the trail from Thyatis comes out of the mountains.
You are either a desert nomad who comes to Kirkuk to trade, or a dweller in Kirkuk.
- Humans, dwarves or halflings only. Only humans can be nomads.
- Certain backgrounds restricted (e.g. sailors)
This is a lively port town where the trade across Lake Amsorak from Akesoli comes into Darokin. It is controlled by the “families” to whom laws are guidelines to beat other people with but can be broken if you can get away with it. Since they control Akorros, they and their henchmen and women generally can get away with it – anyone who objects too loudly is likely to be found in pieces on the lake shore (if at all).
Particularly suited to rogues and shady characters, but all classes can be found.
Fort Denwarf (Rockhome)
A border fort on the northern border of Rockhome guarding the pass where the Styrdal River and Styrdal Road leave the Styrdal Valley and head out into the Ethengar plains and the trade route to Glantri. Frequent clashes with the humanoids in the hills and mountains round about.
Best suited to fighting characters
- Dwarves only. Maybe humans or gnomes if you’re really desperate and can argue your case well…
This is a port town where the Stone river opens out into the sea. Rough and ready and belligerent, the boats are constantly coming and going, and there is a constant threat of “reavers” from Ostland, both to the shipping and to the lands round about. Being far from the centre of things, people here know they have to look after themselves because there won’t be help coming…
Clerics have a special place in society here, as do the skalds, or wandering minstrels. Apart from that an ability to handle yourself in a fight is essential.
- Humans, dwarves or halflings only; wizards, sorcerers and warlocks are extremely rare, no paladins